Fort Collins’ fluoride technical study group agreed Monday to hammer out its differences and write a new, consensus report on the risks and benefits of fluoridating the city’s water supply.
“I think we were doing a disservice to the health board and the water board,” said Frank Vertucci, technical study group member. “We were inflaming concerns rather than reducing fears.”
This fall, the two boards will use the study group’s completed report to make recommendations concerning maintaining the city’s 30-year fluoridation policy to the Fort Collins City Council. As part of the recommendation process, the boards are expected to hold public meetings in October with study group members in attendance.
Previously, the group, unable to reach a consensus, decided to issue “majority” and “minority” reports. That draft has been posted on the city’s Web site. (see reports)
But Monday, the group agreed the draft didn’t serve the boards well and offered them little direction, Vertucci said.
The new report will detail findings from peer-reviewed, authoritative, third-party studies, referred to as “Tier 1 studies” while highlighting areas where concerns among group members remain or where the research was contradictory.
The health board and the water board then can use a risk-management approach to weigh the uncertainty of what the group doesn’t know or the unanswered questions with what the peer-reviewed studies revealed, Vertucci said.
Ed Carr, study group member, said he wanted the boards to hear what the Tier 1 studies have found but not to the exclusion of ongoing research that might dispute the studies or might be considered Tier 1 caliber a few years from now.
Carr referred to the unanswered questions as clouds on the horizon.
“I don’t have a problem with one cloud on the horizon; but if there are 60 clouds on the horizon, that makes a difference,” Carr said. “Pretty soon, you have a thunderhead.”
Some of the concerns about fluoride have to do with prolonged exposure that make it difficult to pinpoint a health problem to one specific cause, said Gale McGaha Miller, a task force member.
If health problems associated with fluoride were easily seen and quickly identified, there would be no debate, Miller said.
“We’d be done with this already,” she said.
The group’s willingness to scrap the format of its first majority/minority draft and create a new draft is reflective of its commitment to the project, said Patty Bigner, spokeswoman for the city’s utilities department.
The new chapter drafts, written by the members, are due Sept. 16. The group then will meet from noon to 3 p.m. Sept. 23 to review the completed draft.
In April 2001, the water board studied fluoridation while reviewing a $500,000 expenditure proposal needed to update equipment and facilities to continue fluoridating the city’s water. In addition to the upgrades, it would cost an additional $100,000 a year to keep the program running. The water board concluded the city should stop fluoridation.
But the City Council returned the board’s recommendation and formed the technical study group to research the issue. The nine-member group formed in December and was to have completed its initial report this July.
“This has been hard, hard work,” said Mike Hughes, group facilitator.
“There’s more hard work to come.”